Fearless Match (1994)
Directed by: Herman Yau
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Rookie PTU officers Fan (Fan Siu-Wong - Story Of Ricky) and Fat (Yeung Chung-Hin) manages to find themselves in a shootout with fugitives but ends up in a favourable light afterwards, earning promotions to CID officers under the watchful eye of Chu (Danny Lee). Slowly but surely getting to know the streets and its inhabitants, soon a conflict with triad Doggie (Ricky Yi) starts...
Around during the early, middle and current career of Herman Yau's, Danny Lee once again took producing/acting reigns (1*), bringing along his trusted team of movie cops such as Parkman Wong and Fan Siu-Wong for Yau's 8th feature. On a kind of roll after acclaim on The Untold Story, Taxi Hunter and Cop Image, the early satire train of thoughts were born and bred by someone on those productions. Whoever it was, it was to become a pretty decent trademark for Yau in movies such as Shark Busters and even Papa Loves You. Fearless Match however quite openly demonstrates the roles taken on by Herman and Danny respectively. Many ideas within are straight from the brain and heart of Danny while Herman executes dependently.
Co-written by Lau Wing-Kin (Love To Kill), in actuality there ARE a bunch of exploitation filmmakers on board here but they're also players working in a cinema where you're not always bound to one image, stamp and rumour if you will. Associated with harsher genre-content Yau and Lee both are yes and the film reworks certain themes by the latter. But this time Danny Lee felt he had to be a bit more detailed about his particular brand of justice so it's no torture show in the vein of Twist. No, with two rookies under his wing, Lee's character places himself in the perspective of someone who never advanced. Rule books are there for a reason but a key line in the film, talking of bad tricks have to be used on bad guys, sums up matters. But through Yau and Lee's eyes, it's not a piece about corruption thankfully because they seem miles off, skills-wise to perform one such piece.
Quite foreboding and tough as nails through certain beats and cinematography choices (one of many of Yau's collaborations with Puccini Yu takes place on this film as well), Fan and Fat are beat-cops basically slipping on a banana peel into fame. The backlashes of that isn't necessarily part of the structure as center stage is the wisdom of Chu who teaches them to focus on not the biggest meanie in the picture but to maintain a logical eye. Yau hits hard at times but also keeps matters suitably light as the rookie cops display their over ambition by bringing in a bunch of un-cooperative drunks at one point. No, the ones opposing authority are the triads and the way they oppose really feels scary too. Especially through Ricky Yi's BIG presence, an aspect that helps an otherwise generic character-image. Ticking off some other content such as thoroughness vs. the loose cop-behaviour, in the end it's Lee's opinions on-screen but again, he's not preaching on an exploitation level and it definitely gets the audiences more on board as things draw closer to a bloody climax.
Giving Fan Siu-Wong a chance to shine on a physical level, clearly the inclusion of a Taekwondo tournament is just for showreel purposes but what a showreel! Otherwise the fresh faced cops complements Lee's rugged, street-smart veteran and for all the logical dividing up of vision and duty between Lee/Yau, today it's easy to see who stopped progressing and who progresses/regresses constantly. If you want a hint at who the latter would be, check out who amongst the two is working on a regular basis in cinema. Fearless Match therefore sees Herman Yau slip out of some true greatness achieved at the time but combining the need for something to say and for something cinematic from 1994, there's little to mull over in a negative way ultimately. And while it isn't much better today, I find it satisfying that Herman Yau has a today.
City Connection presents the film in an aspect ratio 1.33:1. Cropped from its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, compositions doesn't suffer overly much but the VHS like nature of the transfer doesn't do the film any favours as it lacks much clarity, colours and detail.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track has some distracting noise at a few points but does its job otherwise. A Mandarin 2.0 option is also included.
The English subtitles often contain grave grammar- and spelling errors but do come through on the whole. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. There are no extras.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Projects he produced for Yau was The Untold Story, City Cop, The Untold Story III and last at the time of writing, Shark Busters.... as well as acting in all of the above.